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St. Petersburg, Florida
A gently wind-dusted beach, a sand stroll past roving, moon-danced waves, the slow arc of porpoises still visible in the increasing, light-popping dusk. My wife and I walk Madeira Beach in St. Petersburg, and end up in a tiki bar. Thatched roof, open-aired beer and frozen margaritas - just a little salt. The answer, my friend, is mousetraps on the bar holding dollar bills in their steel grasp, otherwise blowin’ in the wind. A small, quiet crowd, low talk amongst the ring of steel drums in the clinging, warm Florida air.
Beach tiki bars are wonderful; they exude a laid-back relaxation, escape, and tranquility from any day’s working harshness. The steel drums a magical call to dreamy imagination, a feel, a look, a sound of long, hot white beach sand which appears to be nothing more than the result of a millennium - or ten - of disintegrating sea shells, the burst of green palm trees hanging out over the water, the lovely mixture of sanded toes and sunshined shoulders, and the relief of the cool breezed, open-aired sanctuary and its cold, cold refreshments.
A woman sits nearby with her nineteen or twenty-year-old daughter. The woman is thin, small, and plain looking, and very quiet. She sips a colorful concoction, umbrellas and fruit hanging over its sides. Occasionally she softly speaks with her daughter. We introduce ourselves and converse in bits and pieces, and learn from the daughter that in the morrow she will realize a life-long dream of swimming with the dolphins. We learn they are from Canada, from the Toronto area. We learn they are nice, friendly people, and that they travel alone.
I watch the dance floor as couples sway slowly, tightly to the magical, dream-like sound. A light, early-evening breeze floats in from the Gulf of Mexico. I order another beer, another frozen margarita - just a little salt. We learn the woman is widowed, that they have saved up for some time to take this trip. The mother is shy, perhaps forty years old. We include her in our conversation; we notice young eyes drawn to her daughter.
Later, the daughter approaches my wife and I.
"I don’t really know how to say this, but can I ask a favor of you?" she says to me.
"My father died a year ago. And my mother…my mother hasn’t dated anyone…well, she hasn’t danced with a man in a year, since my father passed away, and - I don’t know how to ask you this - she’d like to dance with you."
"Why sure," I responded. I rose and walked to the woman, extending my hand. She smiled under eyes miming volumes, sad eyes, excited eyes, thoughtful eyes, thankful eyes. The woman walked to the dance floor with me, put her hands on my arm and shoulder, and leaned her head against my chest. And as the gloriously mellow ringing of the steel drums wafted across the tiki bar and carried out across the sand and over the glimmering ocean, we danced. Slowly we danced.
I have never told my wife this, but that night, as I lay in bed next to her, staring up into the blackness above our bed, I thought of the evening, and of the dance. And I thought that if that time ever comes, I hope she dances. Yeah, I can’t really tell her this, but I hope she dances.